Advocating for Academic Excellence and Student Wellness.
Stepping up to the challenge, Michelle Lane-Smithwick is not your typical school board candidate for Clarke County’s Buckmarsh District. With a background in nursing, coupled with her genuine concern for the educational and holistic well-being of children, she has ignited conversations on current educational trends, the quality of school meals, and student mental health.
Michelle, a mother, grandmother, and registered nurse specializing in pediatrics, expressed her dismay upon discovering that students in Clarke County were falling behind in reading. With children in the district reportedly being one to two years behind in reading skills, Lane-Smithwick emphasizes the need for proper remediation. She also raises concerns about the lack of transparency in the district’s budget allocations, pointing to inconsistent budget figures and the absence of clear line items for programs.
Michelle’s passion isn’t just limited to academics. Proudly discussing her three children’s diverse career paths, she advocates for more versatile educational pathways, stressing the importance of trades alongside conventional academic pursuits. She believes that with the right support and guidance, students can find meaningful careers in trades, often overlooked in the current academic environment.
However, Michelle doesn’t stop at curriculum discussions. Drawing from her medical background, she highlights concerns about the quality of food served in schools, noting the detrimental health effects of meals sourced from factory farms. She believes students deserve better, advocating for meals free from hormones, pesticides, and other potentially harmful substances.
Moreover, Lane-Smithwick also delves into the emotional and psychological aspects of student life. While schools should be environments where children feel accepted and loved, Michelle fears the presence of certain non-profits in schools may inadvertently lead to an increase in students questioning their gender identity without proper medical consultations.
Adding to the layers of challenges faced by the educational system, Michelle also touches upon the recent attorney general’s opinion that could pave the way for parents to sue school boards. This potential development underscores the complex intersection of politics, parental rights, and educational policies.
As the race heats up in the Buckmarsh district of Clarke County, Michelle Lane-Smithwick emerges not just as a candidate but as a concerned citizen, parent, and medical professional. Her holistic approach to the challenges faced by the school district, backed by personal experiences and expertise, offers voters a fresh perspective on what education can and should be in the 21st century.
Front Royal’s Town Council Race: Candidates Share Visions on Housing and Blight
Candidates Open Up About Their Plans and Backgrounds at Recent Forum.
On September 27, the Warren County Builders Association played host to a riveting forum featuring candidates eyeing a seat on the Front Royal Town Council.
Melissa DeDomenico-Payne: A familiar face in the Front Royal political scene, Melissa has been serving on the Town Council since her appointment in January 2023. A local resident since 1971, she vividly remembers the water pollution issues from Avtex during her younger days. Melissa’s approach to blighted properties leans heavily on beefing up the enforcement of rental rules and town codes. She’s vocal about the need for affordable housing. Melissa’s rich background in public service was a focal point during her closing, and she urged builders to establish better communication channels with the council.
Connie Marshner: Branding herself as the “uncandidate,” Connie brings a fresh perspective, free from the binds of political history. She moved to Front Royal in 1995 and recalls a childhood dictated by her Navy family’s frequent relocations. Her take on neglected properties echoes a common sentiment—more hands on deck. She envisions Front Royal as a “lifelong community” with houses everyone can afford. Ending her segment, Connie painted a picture of Front Royal at a crossroads, emphasizing the need to cherish its unique charm and walkable streets.
Glenn Wood: A true Front Royal son, Glenn’s roots trace back to his school days in the local institutions. After dedicating half a century to manufacturing and human resources, he hung up his professional boots, although his heart remains tethered to community service. Glenn expresses deep concern over blighted properties, advocating for prompt actions. On the housing frontier, he’s all for partnerships that benefit those earning under $50k annually. In wrapping up, Glenn put his planning commission experience on display, pledging to ensure the well-being of Front Royal’s residents.
Missing from the forum was the fourth candidate, Skip Rogers, who couldn’t make it to the event. The discussions from that evening painted a clear picture of each candidate’s vision for Front Royal, especially on burning topics like blight and housing affordability. As election day approaches, the residents of Front Royal are undoubtedly better equipped to cast their votes.
Warren County Builders Association Spotlights School Board Hopefuls: Pence & Mabie Talk Education
Candidates Pence and Mabie Weigh in on Bullying, Homeschooling, and Community Engagement.
With the Warren County Builders Association as the backdrop, a pivotal discussion surrounding the direction of local education was presented, showcasing school board candidates Kristen Pence of the South River District and Amber Mabie of the Shenandoah District. Their perspectives, experiences, and solutions took center stage, providing Warren County residents with an in-depth look into their educational aspirations for the region.
Kristen Pence: A Warren County High School alumna, Pence has roots deeply embedded in the community. With a dual role as a veterinarian and a parent, Pence leveraged her four-year tenure on the school board, emphasizing her unwavering commitment. She drew attention to her consistent efforts over the past term, treating the board seat as a full-time job, and her constant engagement with students, parents, and teachers.
Amber Mabie: Mabie’s narrative was equally compelling. A long-standing resident of Warren County and a mother to eight, Mabie exhibited her intimate familiarity with the local school system. With a rich tapestry of experiences ranging from classroom volunteering to substitute teaching, Mabie made a strong case for her grassroots approach to education. She was passionate in her stance against political interference in schools, underscoring the need for an untainted educational environment.
The Core Issues:
Bullying and Student Violence: Rick Novak, the evening’s moderator, didn’t hesitate to address one of the most pressing issues: the alarming increase in bullying and student violence. Mabie passionately voiced her perspective, emphasizing the paramount importance of teacher safety and advocating for reinforced in-school support. Pence, while echoing the sentiment of robust support, stressed the necessity of not just having discipline policies but also ensuring they are effectively enforced.
Homeschooling vs. Public Schooling: This debate took an interesting turn, with Pence acknowledging the growing homeschooling community in Warren County. She advocated for the respect of diverse educational choices while emphasizing her commitment to bolstering public education. Mabie, on the other hand, emphasized the crucial insights gained from having children within the public system and was candid in her skepticism about school board members without this connection.
As they wrapped up, both candidates exhibited a deep-seated commitment to the community. Pence focused on student behavioral challenges and underscored the importance of family engagement. Mabie, casting a wider societal net, championed inclusivity, safety, and the urgent need to address pressing social challenges affecting students.
As the election date of November 7 nears, voters will undoubtedly be reflecting upon the depth and breadth of perspectives presented during this seminal event.
Solo Spotlight: Candidates Stand Alone at Warren County Builders Association Forum
Warren County Builders Association Hosts Noteworthy Candidate Forum.
Warren County’s Builders Association took a significant stride in strengthening community ties and promoting transparency by hosting its first-ever candidate forum.
George Cline, President of the Warren County Builders Association, expressed gratitude for the overwhelming participation and emphasized the Association’s continuous commitment to the community. Since its establishment in 2006, the association has launched various philanthropic initiatives, from scholarships at the Blue Ridge Tech Center to supporting local veterans and families in need.
Here’s a look at their messages.
- Melanie Salins – North River School Board
Melanie, a re-election candidate, emphasized the importance of parents in the education process. Voicing concerns about elitism in education organizations, she advocated for increased parental involvement. Salins also acknowledged the positive strides Warren County Public Schools have made, including the accomplishments at Blue Ridge Tech.
- Angie Moore – Clerk of the Court
Angie provided an insight into the vast responsibilities of the Circuit Court. During her tenure, she has made significant strides in digitizing documents, securing grants, and maintaining operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moore showcased her qualifications, emphasizing her commitment to the role.
- John Bell – Commonwealth Attorney
With a personal touch, John shared his family stories and the importance of justice in a small-town setting. He discussed the challenges brought forth by the pandemic and the need for a prosecutor who understands the community.
- Crystal Cline – Warren County Sheriff: Crystal underlined the importance of bolstering resources for the Sheriff’s Office. She commended the dedication of deputies, highlighting the need for specialized training and equipment. Crystal stressed the importance of dedicated school resource officers and effective community support.
- Janice Butler-Shanks – Warren County Treasurer: Janice, the Republican nominee for Treasurer, emphasized the Treasurer’s role in managing and collecting taxes. Drawing upon her extensive background in local businesses and government, she committed to upholding the highest standards in office.
- Sherry Sowers – Commissioner of Revenue: As a long-serving Commissioner, Sherry discussed her dedication to assisting Warren County residents. She addressed the improvements in liaising with contractors regarding business licenses and encouraged community members to seek help when needed.
The inaugural candidate forum by the Warren County Builders Association marked a significant step toward enhancing community engagement. Each candidate, though unopposed, showed a deep commitment to their roles and a vision for a better Warren County.
Independent Voice for Change: Elizabeth Melson Runs for Senate District 28
An Advocate, Businesswoman, and Farmer Shares Her Vision.
Elizabeth Melson, a candidate for State Senate District 28, represents a mosaic of roles: a mother, wife, advocate, business owner, and farmer. Known for her grassroots initiatives, her vision for the district illuminates a roadmap for governance that seeks to bridge divides and uplift communities.
Melson’s story is as remarkable as her aspirations. A justice-impacted individual, she has returned to the confines of RSW Regional Jail, not as an inmate, but as a beacon of hope offering trauma-informed programs. This experience, combined with her tenure in several state-wide boards like the Virginia Farmers Market Association and Virginia Hemp Coalition, has equipped her with insights into the challenges and opportunities in our legal and agricultural systems.
Balancing her civic roles, Elizabeth’s day-to-day life revolves around her occupation as a Farm and Farmers Market Manager and also as a Yoga Instructor. Her candidness about her personal life—from cheering for her daughter’s equestrian ventures to weekend getaways with her chef husband—adds a relatable touch to her campaign.
The issues at the heart of her campaign resonate deeply with the residents of Senate District 28. She aims to:
- Champion Small Businesses: Recognizing the struggles that local enterprises face from over-regulation, taxation, and inflation, Melson wants to ensure that small businesses have the support they need to thrive.
- Empower Local Decisions: Citing the bureaucratic hurdles with VDOT in her own county, Melson is advocating for greater local authority in making decisions about traffic safety and patterns.
- Advocate for Consumer Rights: From raw milk to plant medicine, she proposes a Right to Food amendment, emphasizing consumer freedom and sovereignty.
- Reform Agriculture & Land Use: Encouraging biodiversity over monocropping and giving tax breaks to productive landowners, Melson seeks to cultivate regional resilience.
- Strengthen Local Supply Chain: She proposes investment in infrastructure like cold storage and commercial kitchens to bolster the local food ecosystem.
- Prioritize Mental Health: Highlighting the urgent need for mental health care accessibility in rural communities, Melson’s vision includes promoting telehealth and affordable care.
Furthermore, her stances on governance reforms, voter ID requirements, education, data centers, 2nd Amendment rights, criminal justice, and women’s reproductive rights showcase a comprehensive approach to governance.
Elizabeth Melson’s candidacy is a testament to her unwavering commitment to her community. A blend of her personal experiences and professional endeavors informs her campaign’s vision. District 28 awaits a transformative election season, and with voices like Melson’s, the future looks promising.
Senate District 28 covers the counties of Rappahannock, Fauquier (part), Culpeper, Orange, Madison, Greene, and Spotsylvania (part).
Warren County’s Crossroads: Voices of the Future
Board of Supervisor Candidates Share Visions for Warren County’s Growth and Governance.
On September 27, 2023, the Warren County Builders Association hosted a Candidate Forum at the Government Center, showcasing the diverse visions of five remarkable candidates for the Board of Supervisors.
Rich Jamieson – North River District
Having dedicated a significant portion of his life to industrial engineering, Jamieson brings a keen analytical perspective to the table. With nearly 30 years of experience focusing on financial and operational enhancement, he firmly believes in the integration of these principles into local governance. Jamieson has consistently promoted the notion that a systematic and engineered approach can solve even the most intricate community issues. His campaign theme, “Professionalism in Governance,” mirrors his dedication to elevating county management standards.
Nicole Wanzer – North River District
Wanzer’s campaign resonates deeply with those who hold Warren County close to their hearts. A third-generation resident, her stories weave a tapestry of love for the land, its history, and its people. She speaks not as a distant politician but as a neighbor, sharing joys, concerns, and hopes for the community’s future. Wanzer is particularly passionate about ensuring the voices of North River residents are at the forefront, pushing for public safety measures, fiscal transparency, and a departure from divisive politics that have plagued community discourse.
Walt Mabe – Shenandoah District
The journey of Mabe, the Shenandoah District representative seeking re-election, stands as a testament to his resilience and adaptability. Although initially challenged by his lack of political experience, Mabe’s narrative is one of growth and transformation. He speaks of lessons learned during his tenure, emphasizing the importance of collective action and continued progress. His message, “We’ve faced challenges, but we’ve always risen,” encapsulates his unwavering optimism for Warren County.
John Stanmeyer – Shenandoah District
Stanmeyer, with his background in economics from the University of Virginia, combines academic rigor with on-ground practicality. He offers a vision rooted in metrics, accountability, and efficiency. He seeks to balance tourism growth while preserving local interests and wants to confront the drug epidemic using data-driven strategies. His campaign, focused on “Data and Dedication,” highlights his belief that evidence-based policymaking is the key to sustainable growth.
Cheryl Cullers – South River District
Cullers, the incumbent representative for the South River District, embodies a legacy of dedication to Warren County. She champions numerous causes, from pushing for broadband access to enhancing emergency services. Her tenure is marked by a non-partisan approach, always prioritizing community needs over political allegiances. Her rallying cry, “I represent you, not the politics,” embodies her service ethos.
Warren County stands at a crossroads, with each candidate offering unique paths forward. Their collective vision showcases a future rich in potential:
- Jamieson: A future of systematic, professional governance.
- Wanzer: A future that embraces history, unity, and community voices.
- Mabe: A future forged through resilience and optimism.
- Stanmeyer: A future steered by data and unwavering dedication.
- Cullers: A future that prioritizes the community over politics.
The impending election is pivotal, shaping the trajectory of Warren County’s journey. It’s more than a vote; it’s a declaration of belief in a prosperous tomorrow.
Building a Better Tomorrow: Candidates for VA Delegate District 31 Outline Their Blueprint at Warren County Builders Assoc Forum
Hopes, Challenges, and Community: Candidates Share Visions for District 31.
On September 27, 2023, the Warren County Builders Association hosted a Candidate Forum at the Government Center. Three hopefuls—Steve Foreman, Grace Morrison, and Delores Oates—took center stage to articulate their aspirations and plans for District 31 of Virginia.
Delores Oates passionately highlighted her deep-seated roots in Warren County. Citing her multifaceted roles in the community, from a baseball mom to a mentor for teen mothers, she emphasized the community’s significance in her life. Expressing concerns over Warren County’s segmented representation in the past decade, she pledged a unified, committed voice in the State House of Virginia.
Steve Foreman’s professional background shone through as he referenced his 25-year tenure with Sprint, delineating duties that married technology with project management. Affirming his commitment to the entirety of District 31, he vowed to equip citizens with the resources they need to thrive.
Grace Morrison brought forth her unique perspective as a conservative independent. With family roots deep in the Virginia building legacy, Morrison presented herself as a bridge between tradition and progress. She underscored her commitment to genuine representation, free from the binds of corporate interests and partisan loyalty.
Moderator Rick Novak probed the candidates on their strategies for maintaining connections with Warren County constituents. Each candidate emphasized accessibility, with Oates advocating for individual conversations and Foreman prioritizing regular community meetings.
In discussing the top issues for Warren County, education was a resonant theme. While Morrison drew from her teaching experience to emphasize support from Richmond, Oates spotlighted the integration of trades in the educational curriculum. Foreman, on the other hand, highlighted the importance of retaining public funds in public schools.
The forum concluded with each candidate outlining their visions. While Oates focused on her roots in Warren County and the importance of economic development, Foreman advocated for pragmatic compromises and solutions that serve communal needs. Morrison reiterated her role as a trustee and servant to the people.
With a shared love for Warren County, each candidate offered their unique lens on progress, challenges, and community welfare. While the election will ultimately decide District 31’s representative, the forum provided a valuable opportunity for the community to gauge the visions and priorities of each contender.